The Church and its history

All Saints church sits at a crossroads midway between the two parts of the village.

The church is very probably of Saxon origin. Much else indicates that the church was substantially added to during the great Norfolk church building period of the 14th/15th centuries.

The earliest image of the church is a sketch by the renowned artist John Sell Cotman, made about 1818 as part of a series on Norfolk Churches.

These are some of the features of the church you may notice when visiting. They give you a glimpse of its long and varied history.

Timeline

  • SAXON era (pre 1066): church founded, with the round tower circular internally, and built into the west wall. This wall also shows evidence of Saxon construction by the stonework (long and short work style) and possibly original Saxon corners
  • 13th century: new belfry openings created in the tower
  • 14th century: the chancel was built around the time Gresham Castle was being fortified
  • 14th or early 15th century, a Perpendicular window built into the centre of the south wall, narrower windows either side are earlier
  • Font, perhaps late 15th century, highly regarded as it is in very good condition and, unusually, Octagonal, each side representing one of the seven sacraments with the additional side having a representation of Christ’s baptism
  • 1505: Brass Inscription in floor near font, earliest in church
  • 1615: larger bell founded in Norwich by the Brend family
  • 1658: Memorial to Rev. Robert Smith , of the Paston family, earliest in the chancel
  • 1665: smaller bell founded in York by James Smith
  • 1850s: early Victorian stained glass windows in the chancel
  • 1893: Mrs Spurgin, widow of previous Rector, donated organ (built 1867 by Mark Noble in Norwich) to All Saints Church
  • 1896: late Victorian stained glass in South Nave window; scenes depict the Good Shepherd and the Light of the world
  • 1946: Batt family, (owners of the local estate and residing in Gresham Hall) erected a memorial to the three sons of Major Batt killed in WWII

The tower appears to be built into the West wall which has some of the cornerstones arranged in the ‘long and short’ style, so typical of the Saxon period. This probably means the tower is of Saxon date rather than Norman. The way the flints are laid in layers indicate that the tower was built over a number of years. This likely fitted in with the agricultural seasonal year. Building only done when no work in the field was required. Originally the tower had no embellishments at the top but Cotman and other sketches show a peculiar embellishment was in place in the early 1800s. In 1887 this was replaced by a stone parapet.

The Nave and Chancel are mostly plain with whitewashed walls though there are some fine examples of Victorian stained glass.

There are a number of memorials in the chancel.

  • The earliest is to the Rev Robert Smith , a member of the Paston family.
  • One to the Rev. Francis Arden, who was rector for fifty-four years. His family can trace it’s ancestry to Mary Arden the mother of William Shakespeare and even further back to Leofric, the Earl of Mercia , one of the three great earls of 11th-century England
  • There are six Spurgin memorials including one to the Rev. John Spurgin (1893).
  • Six memorials are to the Batt family of Gresham Hall, These includes one memorial to three army officers of the family who died in the WWII (1939—1945).

Seven Sacrament Font

The most notable item in the Church is its 15th-century font. This one of the finest examples of a “Seven Sacrament” font which is peculiar to Norfolk and Suffolk.

The seven sacraments depicted are:

Baptism — An baby is being immersed in an octagonal font .
Confirmation — Five very young children are brought for confirmation.
Penance — A damaged Satan flies out of the penitent who is being scourged by an angel.
Holy Communion — At the moment of elevation of the host being offered up by the priest.
Holy Matrimony — A priest joining the hands of the couple.
Ordination — Ordinand kneels before the bishop, for the laying on of hands.
Extreme Unction — a priest is anointing a dying man with oil and his family all around. .
There are in fact eight sides to the font so the final side shows the Baptism of Christ in the River Jordan.

1838, By John William Burgon [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

2 Comments

  1. I came across a photograph of this font in a book ‘The English Countryman’ written by H.J.Massingham and published in 1942. I was really pleased to be able to find out more about it on your website.

    • Hi Penny, Thank you for this comment. Glad you now have more details. It is a lovely example of this type of font. Was there any other detail on the font in the H. J. Massingham book? Kind regards Chris Hunter

Please leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.